ETAD 802 was the first course I took as a graduate student. It was exciting, scary, and intimidating all at the same time. I had no idea what to expect, and was also taking on a brand new teaching assignment that I had no experience with. The course was spread out over two terms and consisted mostly of weekly discussions with a learning journal and project on topics of our choosing. Looking back, I cannot believe how much content we covered in the course. Some topics I got really into, while others I struggled to engage with at any level.
I fondly remember the start of the course and struggling so profoundly with getting my head wrapped around epistemologies. It was a mess. To be completely honest, my brain still starts to hurt if I get thinking too deeply into them. We looked deeply and critically at various learning theories, something I hadn’t really had the chance to do up until this point. I found myself the most engaged by the topics of constructivism, connectivism, virtual learning communities, and instructional design. This is largely because they spoke to my current teaching practices and philosophy of teaching at the time.
In my classroom, I have always attempted to ensure that knowledge was being constructed by my learners through as much collaboration as possible, in alignment with constructivism (Driscoll, 2005). Through my attempts to push the collaboration pieces and expand them outside of my classroom, connectivism hit home for me causing me to ponder how knowledge fits within network and systems theory alongside social learning theories (Siemens, 2004). I was especially drawn to connectivism because of how it states knowledge rests in diverse opinions, that capacity to know is more important than what one knows (in line with growth mindset), and that being able to see connections is an essential skill (Siemens, 2004). Further to that, the concept of VLCs (Virtual Learning Communities) spoke to me as a way to actualize both constructivism and connectivism. By designing and creating intentional digital learning spaces, we can craft VLCs that foster high levels of learner engagement (Schwier, 2001).
Throughout the entire course, I found myself asking “what’s the point of this?” or “how does this even apply to my classroom today?”. I had a tough time taking what I was learning and applying it to my teaching immediately. Although these questions made me extremely frustrated at the time, it pushed me to think differently, which has had a long lasting impact on my approach to teaching. My notes, articles, and textbook are valuable resources that I have referred back to multiple times in later classes and in my current role.
If I had to pick one course to go back and take again, it would without a doubt be this course. The more I learned, the more I realized I did not know. I would have loved to have been able to dive deeper into all of these topics as a more experienced graduate student, with the skills to manage my learning much better than I did at the time.
Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction. Boston: Pearson Allyn and Bacon.
R. A. Schwier (2001). Catalysts, emphases and elements of virtual learning communities: Implications for research and practice. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 2(1), 5-18.
Siemens, G. (2004, December 12). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm